Rejuvenated class of ’92 inspire snooker’s greatest era: O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams
Forget the 1980s, we are living in snooker’s golden age with three giants of the sport – Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams – performing at their very best, writes Desmond Kane.
From the golden generation, comes a golden era. The curious narrative of the green baize has become a sort of Benjamin Button with snooker balls courtesy of its glistening potting triumvirate.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, the world’s top three this year, have a combined age of 126, but a collective snooker brain of about half that.
The older they get, the younger they get. Weird, but also wonderful for those of you out there who rage against the dying of the light. If the 1980s was snooker’s heyday in the UK, snooker is at its zenith in 2018.
O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams, three blokes 21 years short of making up a combined age of 147, have never performed better encased by some sort of time-defying emollient and a genuine desire to improve.
Eight out of the season’s 16 ranking tournaments have been gobbled up by WHO at 42? It is not melodramatic to suggest the ongoing class of ’92 – the year when they started out as professionals – are holding up better at the table than Paul Newman as ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson. And he was fictional.
O’Sullivan is officially enjoying his best season collecting a career-best haul of four titles at the English Open, Shanghai Masters, UK Championship and World Grand Prix.
No country for young men? O’Sullivan is targeting two more world titles in his 40s to equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven.
“Perhaps 40 is the new 25,” he has commented.
After a seemingly terminal decline since his peak of world titles in 2000 and 2003, Williams is blooming like a Welsh daffodil. He ended a seven-year drought to win the Northern Ireland Open with a 9-8 win over Yan Bingtao in November before waltzing to his 20th career title with a 9-1 victory over Graeme Dott at the German Masters last month.
Higgins usurped Barry Hawkins 9-7 to earn a fifth Welsh Open and 30th ranking title on Sunday night, 23 years after he first reached the final of the event. He has also lifted the Indian Masters title less than a year after becoming the oldest World Championship finalist aged 41 since Ray Reardon in 1982.
Higgins attributes the expanded snooker tour for saving and extending his career because he is no longer having to isolate himself for practice sessions when he is playing so much. When you study six-times world champion Steve Davis aged 39 winning the Masters in 1997 for his final major victory or Hendry’s toil in his 30s before retiring at age of 43 in 2012, it is remarkable to witness snooker become a game for true greats.
Higgins told me back in 2009 a day after lifting the third of his four world crowns, that “when you get to your late 30, early 40s, it will naturally become more difficult with the amount of talent pushing through”. Yet he continues to compete at the highest levels due to a technique made in Scotland from girders.
A holy timeless trilogy with 11 world titles between them are rewriting the record books on what can be achieved beyond the previously slippery slope of 40 with a load of balls and a snooker cue as Chas & Dave sung back in its 1980s pomp.
The world might have been going snooker loopy back in those days of mullets, shoulder pads and shell suits, but the game of snooker has never been more credible.
Out of the top 30 heaviest century makers in the history of the sport, only Hendry, Davis and John Parrott have retired.
With a golden generation growing golder in their third decade, snooker boasts genuine forces of nature in world champion Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy, Mark Allen and Neil Robertson. None of them are in the first flush of youth.
There is also a supporting cast that includes serious rising Chinese talent led by Bingtao as the sport suddenly houses serious prize money.
If O’Sullivan wins a sixth world title in May, he snares £425,000 and becomes the first man to earn £1m on the table in a season. But Higgins and Williams carrying off the old pot would not be a surprise given how this season is unravelling.
It is a glorious sight indeed in any sport to witness maturing talent make good on their late promise
Life begins at 40? In snooker, life begins beyond 40. And the final frame, the final black is some way off being sunk for the perpetual potters.
This time from the Telegrapgh
Snooker’s two greatest talents, two men who have given sports fans some of the greatest thrills and most gutting disappointments of our lifetimes. Between them they have survived cancer, a dad imprisoned for murder, endless disciplinary controversies, divorce, booze, bankruptcy, and even having to play Stephen Hendry. Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan sat down together with Telegraph Sport in a King’s Cross snooker club, and this is what they had to say about life, the green baize, and everything…
O’Sullivan: I loved his flair, the way he played the game. All the other players, they were all cueing up [O’Sullivan mimes a doddery, arthritic caution] like this, but Jimmy had style. Alex Higgins too, they had that charm about them. I think Ayrton Senna said like “it was pure racing”. When Jimmy and Alex played, it was pure snooker. And I think other people sort of destroyed that organic feeling, you know? They try and coach it out of themselves in some sort of way, become like robots. Jimmy brought rock ’n’ roll to snooker.
White: I’d heard about him when he was a young kid but I hadn’t seen him. I played him at Norbreck Castle when he was a teenager: I won the first game and lost the next five. I was, you know, a sort of on-the-road person then and I wasn’t really playing. But I knew at the time it was great for snooker, a breath of fresh air, and the game needed an amazing talent like that. He took the attacking stuff from me and he watched Steve Davis for the brilliant defence and combined them for the full package. But then with his own talent he produced this magical way of there being nothing on the table and then clearing the balls up. He took the game to a new level.
O‘Sullivan: Talking about combining, Stephen Hendry had that quality like he was half-robot, half-human, I call him a hybrid. [White laughs]. You need that to be a prolific winner, but if the sport only had that sort of player would it be as entertaining? Probably not. But Jimmy, Jimmy would just turn up in his suit, bring excitement to a room, a whole place. He’s unique.
[White has now pulled a large wad of money of his pocket and is jokingly passing it to O’Sullivan by way of payment for the testimonial.]
White: We are similar sort of people. We like to go out, have a good time.
O’Sullivan: I showed him the ropes, you know.
White: He gives me 21 at that game now. I don’t go out all that much any more, I enjoy the normal things in life, but we have a bit of fun occasionally. When you’re on the road, you’d have quite a few people with you, and they wouldn’t perhaps be able to enjoy themselves like we do. So we treat people. Me and Ronnie always seem to pick up most of the bills.
[Stories of White “on the road” are of course legendary, from popping out to the shops and coming back a fortnight later; to taking his dead brother to the pub; to epic benders at Ronnie Wood’s house with a white-gloved Keith Richards serving the drinks as White and O’Sullivan played a snooker match. Between them they made nine centuries in 11 frames: perhaps they should let Keef do the refreshments at The Crucible.
I ask White if he ever feels under pressure from an adoring public to be the life and soul, but he interprets the question in a way I wasn’t anticipating].
White: Listen, I could have won the World Championship. Obviously if I had the chance to do it all again I would do things differently. But then would I have still wanted to play? Being realistic it is very difficult for me to win the tournament now but my game’s not gone. I still enjoy it. What I should have done is prepared better.
O’Sullivan: I would have changed a few things too. There was a period from about 19 to 25 when I just got absolutely hammered. I smoked myself to death. Skunked myself to death. And that was a coping mechanism for me. Because I think my dad going away when I was 16 kind of hit me but didn’t really hit me. And it took time for that to sink in. Once it did, well by then I needed a release. And I found the release in the wrong things basically. If I had found the release in doing triathlons I would have been Olympic champion by now probably. Once I get stuck into something I take it to its limits. And I think that’s what I did with drinking and smoking dope for a while. And them six years, if I could change them I would.
White: Talent, it can become a trap. Back in the day, when there weren’t so many good players, you’d have a good time and then you’d do a couple of days practice during a tournament but that’d be it. You’d get it back together, and you probably had the natural talent to get into the semis or something. But that’s no way to be in sport. And sometimes you’d win, and you might be laughing with your mates, thinking: ‘Oh, I have won that and the only practice I have done is in the tournament.’ And you get big-headed. You think you’re better than you are. But the game’s bigger than anyone.01:06
[O’Sullivan and White have been doing TV punditry and have surprised themselves with how much they’re enjoying it]
White: Ronnie asked me to do Eurosport about 18 months ago and I thought ‘I really don’t want to do that’. But it has been fantastic. I watched more snooker in the last 18 months than I have done in 40 years.
O’Sullivan: I could never watch a game of snooker before. After half an hour I’d be like: ‘Oh no. I’ve got to go.’
White: Yeah! And now we’re like, ‘Here, this is good.’ And not gambling. When I was gambling I could watch it, but I’m not gambling now and we’re like on the edge of our seat. In that studio, watching it, really enjoying it. And a couple of special things have happened. A friend of Ronnie’s – I know him, I get on with him and I get on with most people but I don’t really have many friends, more associates. Yeah so this kid called Anthony Hamilton won his first tournament last year [the German Masters] and it was such a great thing. And then we had Mark King, who was sort of a journeyman, and he went and won one. So there’s been a lot happening. Being there live was good, wasn’t it?
O‘Sullivan: Yeah it was. We get really into it.
White: Before Hamilton won in Germany, he’d got to the semi in the Northern Ireland Open, he was hitting the balls great, about to win the frame he needed, and we were going ‘this is effing brilliant’. And then he lost the match in the worst way.
O‘Sullivan: Yeah, he like touched the white. Feathered it. It was so bad. And if he’d went out and hanged himself you’d have gone: ‘Yeah, I get it.’
O’Sullivan: For a snooker player, you know, I get it. You’d want to check on him that night. Make sure he’s all right. Anyway, he come in afterwards and he said: ‘You know two weeks ago I didn’t even have enough money to enter the tournament.’ And this is like one of my mates, we grew up practising together. And he’s the most beautiful guy. And you don’t get to know this about a person but he just come in and told us, we were sitting there like ‘Jesus Christ!’ And he said, ‘I didn’t even want to ask my mum and dad for the money.’
White: Ronnie turned to him and said: ‘Mate, I would have lent you five grand.’ But that was just off the camera because Ronnie was talking to him as a mate. It was quite an emotional thing. And I said: ‘Aw what a —-ing nice guy!’ and the producers were like: ‘You can’t swear! Stop it!’ And then Hamilton went on to win the next tournament.
O‘Sullivan: Yeah, he won his first tournament a couple of weeks later and we were there. [After that white ball] you don’t know how to console him, you don’t know what to say, and then the next month he is wining the German Open. He is a journeyman but he is a class act. His mum and dad were there.
White: And he was cueing beautiful. Like a top four player. So we’ve enjoyed that. And it’s been good doing the TV with Eurosport. I got such a buzz being there. People come to you for advice.
O’Sullivan: Yeah people come to me, to Jimmy. Liang Wenbo comes to me, we’re both geeing the players up.
White: See your pal Wenbo, he’s another one that could win anything but he has never produced. He’s a brilliant story, Chinese player that has come over. He lives in Essex and he is a good friend of Ronnie’s. He’s getting the advice of Ronnie nearly each round, you know what I mean. Ronnie is saying to him to chill out.
O’Sullivan: I am giving him the diluted version of what I have been getting from [his psychiatrist] Steve Peters. And I know it works so I pass it on: you need to switch off your emotions, because you cannot control your form. All you can control is your mind. You have to realise that you might play the whole match rubbish but you can still control your own mind. So I tell him that.
White: Some of these players now, they might have played for five years and not won a tournament and that’s no life at all. Having to play 12 months a year.
O’Sullivan: It can be lonely for some people, the circuit. But not for us, because we have a life [away from the sport].
White: It’s like the golfers all used to travel together but now they get proper money they all have private jets so they just travel on their own if they can’t stand each other. With us we’re all stuck together …
O’Sullivan: Yeah, stuck on a minibus.
White: Well not quite that but you’re at a service station waving through the window going ‘Hello mate’ but really you’re thinking: ‘Oh just eff off.’
O‘Sullivan: A lot of sportsmen when they are not doing their sport they lose their identity. You can play golf, tennis, but unless you’ve had it off and won the Euro Lottery you cannot retire as a snooker player or a dart player. They need to do a bit of commentary, a bit of punditry. But I think it’s important to try and pre-empt that stage so that you, you know … I don’t want to let snooker kill me. I want to use snooker so I can get from 40 to 65. I wanted snooker to be everything that I wanted to do, but then what else do I do with my time? I think I will always play snooker, but I think there will come a point where no matter how good you think you are you, are not going to get the buzz if you are not …
O’Sullivan: Yeah, producing.
White: So you are weaning yourself off.
White: I think that’s smart. You have to look at people that’s gone before you.
O’Sullivan: You cannot think: ‘Oh this is not going to happen to me.’ You have to forget that mindset, because you’re not invincible. Because we are all human. We all need purpose in life.”
Watch the English Open live on Eurosport and Quest with studio analysis from Ronnie O’Sullivan and Jimmy White. Also available via the Eurosport Player.
Jimmy and Ronnie were yesterday in London, at an event organised by Discovery/Eurosport UK promoting the Home Nations Series that starts next week with the English Open 2017. They played a few frames against each other, just exhibition stuff but clearly enjoyed by the audience, Andy Goldstein, the MC on the day, and the players.
Here are a few pictures, and the video that was shared by Eurosport UK, live, on Facebook. Enjoy!
Ronnie on twitter:
Back with me old mucca jimmy, fouldsy and col at Eurosport. Live at 6:30
Apparently, going by the reactions on social media the gang is doing a great job, but, like many mainland European I can’t watch the Eurosport UK coverage.
I will try to bring as many snippets as I possibly can though …
This is a first one, with this tweet by Eurosport UK:
@ronnieo147 is a man of many talents!
And Ronnie reveals what he said to Ding when they embraced
Ronnie gave Germany’s “Mr Snooker” and Eurosport commentator, Rolf Kalb, his thoughts about the favorites in this World Championship. The article is in German .
Ronnie O’Sullivans Favoritencheck für die Weltmeisterschaft 2017
Vom 15. April bis 1. Mai findet im Crucible Theatre in Sheffield die Snooker-Weltmeisterschaft 2017. Snooker-Legende Ronnie O’Sullivan hat das prestigeträchtige Turnier bereits fünfmal gewonnen. Für Eurosport gibt der Engländer seine Favoritentipps ab. Titelverteidiger Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Stuart Bingham oder jemand anderer – wer trägt sich dieses Jahr in die Siegerliste ein?
Warum Titelverteidiger Mark Selby der Favorit ist, Judd Trump der unberechenbarste Spieler und Ding Junhui den WM-Titel längst verdient hätte – Ronnie O’Sullivan macht den Favoritencheck vor der Snooker-WM 2017.
Mark Selby (Titelverteidiger & Nr. 1 der Welt): “Keine Schwächen”
Ronnie O’Sullivan: “Er hat keine echten Schwächen, was wohl das größte Kompliment ist, das man ihm machen kann. Er ist der einzige Spieler, der selbst mit einer für ihn drittklassigen Leistung noch Turniere gewinnen kann. Wenn es über ‘Best-of-19’ geht, und es steht 8:8, kann man sein Geld auf Selby wetten. Er kann abliefern, wenn es zählt. Darum ist er wohl der Favorit.”
Judd Trump (Nr. 2 der Welt): “Manchmal zu selbstbewusst”
O’Sullivan: “Dieses Jahr ist er endgültig erwachsen geworden. Er hat sich sehr verändert und noch mehr investiert, um der beste Spieler zu werden. Seine Stärke ist sein Umgang mit dem Queue. Er kann die Kugel so gut kontrollieren wie kein anderer. Ich bin mir sicher, er rechnet damit, dass es sein Jahr wird. Judd ist manchmal zu selbstbewusst und glaubt, dass er das göttliche Recht hat, einige Spieler zu schlagen. Wenn das nicht passiert, lässt er sich aus dem Rhythmus bringen. Diese mentale Hürde muss er überwinden. Es gibt keinen, der ein größeres Talent hat als Judd.”
Stuart Bingham (Nr. 3 der Welt): “Kann jeden schlagen”
O’Sullivan: “Es war eine kleine Überraschung, als er 2015 Weltmeister wurde, aber seitdem hat er viele Turniere gewonnen. Eine seiner größten Stärken ist die Fähigkeit, große Breaks zu spielen. Er gewinnt manche Frames in einem Durchgang, und wenn er in der Form ist, kann er jeden schlagen. Er hat bei der WM auch schon bewiesen, dass er mit Druck gut zurecht kommt. Wenn er eine Schwäche hat, dann die, dass er schwächere Frames nicht nach Hause bringt. Wenn er nicht in allerbester Form ist, kann er etwas ins Schwimmen kommen. Er ist ein glänzender Scorer und hat ein sehr druckvolles, modernes Spiel. Er gewinnt Frames oftmals mit einem aggressiven Stoß.”
Ding Junhui (Nr. 4 der Welt): “Müsste schon Weltmeister sein”
O’Sullivan: “Ding hätte den WM-Titel schon gewinnen müssen. Er beherrscht das komplette Spiel. Er ist ein guter Scorer, kann aber auch auf Sicherheit spielen. Er hat eine unglaubliche Technik und ist ein echtes Snooker-Brain. Wenn es einen Bereich gibt, wo er sich noch etwas verbessern könnte, dann ist es das Auftreten rund um den Tisch. Würde man nur etwas von Stephen Maguire in Ding Junhui hineinstecken, hätte er jetzt sieben WM-Titel gewonnen. Es sind 17 Tage, und man muss seine Emotionen im Zaum halten. Ding ist in der Hinsicht ein bisschen wie ich. Wenn er sich nicht perfekt fühlt, kann er schnell draußen sein.”
John Higgins (Nr. 6 der Welt): “Nicht mehr so stabil wie früher”
O’Sullivan: “Das größte Kompliment, dass ich ihm machen kann, ist zu sagen, dass er schon etwas mehr hätte gewinnen müssen. Er beherrscht das Safety-Spiel unglaublich gut, hat eine großartige Technik und ist ein ausgezeichneter Scorer. Außerdem hat er ein echtes Snooker-Hirn und ist ein starker Wettkämpfer. Manchmal spielt er so gut, dass er dich wie einen Amateur aussehen lässt. Er ist jetzt in den Vierzigern, und seine größte Schwäche ist, dass er nicht mehr so stabil ist, wie er einmal war. Und er ist, genau wie ich ein Spieler, der mit sich selbst sehr hart ins Gericht geht, wenn es einmal nicht klappt. Und dafür ist in diesem Sport kein Platz.”
Neil Robertson (Nr. 9 der Welt): “Man muss ihn attackieren”
O’Sullivan: “Man muss ihn um jeden Preis attackieren. Wenn man diese Art von nicht vorhersehbarem Snooker mit ihm spielt, kann man ihn verwirren. Und das mag er nicht. Er spielt lieber gegen jemanden wie John Higgins, bei dem man genau weiß, was einen erwartet. Wenn er gegen jemanden wie Trump spielt, regt es ihn auf und bringt ihn aus dem Rhythmus.”
I have tried to edit the automatic google traduction because it’s not great and some sentences seem to go lost entirely in the process, but when I do it messes up the text layout to such an extend that it becomes unmanageable.
BUT wait… here is a translation by Kathrin Poser, a fellow snooker fan.
THANK YOU KATHRIN!
The crucible theatre in Sheffield is hosting the World Snooker Championship 2017 from 15 April to 1 May.
Ronnie O’Sullivan has won the tournament 5 times already.
He’s talking about his favourites for the title exclusively for Eurosport.
Current champion Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Stuart Bingham or somebody else – who will be on the list of champions?
Mark Selby (current champion and No. 1) – “no weaknesses”
Ros: He doesn’t have weaknesses, which is probably the biggest compliment you can give to him. He’s the only player who can win tournaments with a mediocre performance. If it’s a best of 19 and the score is 8:8 you can certainly but a bet on him. He can deliver when it’s crucial. That’s why he’s the favourite.
Judd Trump (number 2) – “too confident sometimes”
Ros: this year he has matured a lot. He has changed a lot and invested time and effort to become the best player. His strength is his cue action. He can control the white ball better than anyone else. I’m certain that he thinks that this is his year. Judd is too confident at times and it seems that he thinks he has the godgiven right to beat some players. If this doesn’t happen he gets out of rhythm. He needs to overcome this mental obstacle. There’s no one else with a bigger talent than Judd.
Stuart Bingham (number 3) – “can beat anyone”
Ros: it came as a surprise when he won in 2015 but since then he’s won many tournaments. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to get big breaks. He can win frames in one visit to the table and if he’s in good shape he can beat anyone. He’s proven that he can handle pressure well. He can get in trouble if he’s not showing up in his best form. He’s a brillIant scorer and and has a very powerful modern game. He often wins frames with one aggressive shot.
Ding Junhui (number 4) – should be world champ by now
Ros: He should’ve been world champ by now. He’s mastering the whole game. He’s a good scorer and he can play good safeties. He’s got an incredible technique and is a real Snooker brain. If there’s one thing he would have to improve then it would be his behaviour at the table. If you’d put a bit of Stephen Maguire into Ding junhui he would have won the worlds 7 times by now. It’s 17 days and you have to control your emotions. Ding is a bit like me when it comes to that. If he doesn’t feel perfect he can be out very quickly.
John Higgins (number 6) – not as consistent as he used to be
Ros: the biggest compliment I can give him is by saying he should’ve won more. He’s brilliant at safeties, is a great scorer and has a great technique. He has a real Snooker brain and is a strong competitor. Sometimes he plays so good that it makes you look like you’re an amateur. He’s in his forties now and his biggest weakness is that he’s not as consistent as he used to be. Like me he’s criticising himself too much/hard if something goes wrong and there’s no place for that in this sport.
Neil Robertson (number 9) – you need to attack him
Ros: you need to attack him at every opportunity. You can confuse him by playing an unpredictable style of Snooker. He doesn’t like that. He likes playing someone like John Higgins where you know what to expect. If he plays the likes of Trump he gets annoyed and that breakss his rhythm.
In his latest Eurosport blog with Desmond Kane, Ronnie once again explains why he’s done those strange interviews and tells us about life, snooker, the Crucible and his future.
In an interview with the BBC, Barry Hearn states that Ronnie isn’t breaking any rules, that himself finds the whole thing hilarious and that the game needs him.
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Wonderwall: There are many things I’d like to say to you, but I don’t know how
In his latest blog, Ronnie O’Sullivan explains to Desmond Kane why singing Oasis songs, impersonating a robot and discussing weight loss with the media is better than landing a heavy fine by sharing his opinions on snooker ahead of next month’s World Championship in Sheffield.
I’ll keep this brief on why I’ve continued to avoid getting involved in discussing snooker to the media. It is not to be awkward, have a laugh or make headlines. As I pointed out in my last blog, I’ve kept it deliberately short in my interviews due to the nature of the disciplinary letter I received via email from World Snooker before the German Masters in Berlin.
It was a huge distraction, was poor in tone and timing, and it unquestionably had a negative effect on my performance/results at the World Grand Prix, German Masters and Welsh Open.
At the end of the day, I owe it to the fans of the sport to give my best on the table. Win or lose, the snooker public deserves the best from me at all times.
I gain nothing really from speaking from the heart in my press conferences after matches, but I do stand to lose a lot if I say something that brings the game into disrepute.
As I said in my previous blog, as soon as the topic goes onto snooker, it can land me in hot water with a heavy fine. So I’m giving that a swerve because I don’t need the stress. I have to attend press conferences as part of my duties, but why open up when it is not welcomed?
I felt it was important to explain my reasons for recent happenings so the snooker fans will understand why I’ve had some peculiar moments on TV, and in media conferences recently.
Or maybe people won’t understand. Either way, I’m being transparent about the whole situation which I believe is the best way to be.
The snooker fans deserve to know the truth, and understand I’m certainly not doing this to be awkward.
‘CRUCIBLE CAN BE GREATEST OR WORST’
On the whole, my season has been great. I’ve been in four finals and enjoyed a record seventh victory at the Masters in January. I’ll take that in this era.
I’m really looking forward to the World Championship next month. As we all know, it is the greatest snooker event on earth.
The Crucible in Sheffield can be the greatest place to play, but it can also be the worst if things aren’t going well for you. There is nowhere to hide in that venue.
I hear a lot about my performances not being as good as they used to be. Well, I tend to disagree. I think the standard in depth of the sport is as high as it’s ever been. I’m not too doing too badly if you take into consideration my age compared to others, and also my reputation.
I accept that will always be the case because sometimes a player will beat me then not reproduce the same level of form in the next round.
I know this happens to all the great players who have had great careers. You are there to be shot at.
In many ways, it is a compliment, but it doesn’t make it any easier to win matches.
‘FEARFUL, MOODY, NERVOUS AND ANXIOUS’
I’ve taken on other work that has probably helped in taking my eye off playing snooker. I don’t practice as much as I used to, but I’m the happiest I’ve been in my life.
I love doing my punditry, I love doing my books and I’ve loved doing my exhibitions. I loved doing my TV show American Hustle playing pool in the USA. I’ve loved doing my charity work. I’ve loved being able to give back to people who work selflessly to help others.
These are the things that have made me so happy, and my life feels fulfilling.
Snooker was always a self-indulgent pursuit. It was done with such tunnel vision, I never got to really do the things that really made me happy, and it’s only now that I’m realising that there is more to life than potting balls.
But I’m not resentful about that, I’m just regretful I didn’t do it earlier.
It feels as if my life has come alive, the only thing that makes me kind of unhappy is practice and playing in big snooker events.
For the simple reason I become out of touch with life and its joys. When I’m in snooker mode, I suffer from anxiety, I get fearful. I get nervous, I get moody and I isolate myself.
I can manage these emotions much better then I used to, but it still chips away at me.
‘LIFE A THOUSAND TIMES BETTER’
I read a great article about former track cyclist Victoria Pendleton last week.
She went through the same thought process as I did, and thanks to (sports psychiatrist) Doctor Steve Peters, we were both able to reach the heights we were capable of. I truly believe this, and I know that without him working to improve my mental attitude, I would never have been the player I have been over these past five years in winning the world title another few times.
I still feel I can compete on the table, and I will continue to compete for as long as I can. There’s a part of me that will always want the buzz from playing even though it comes with its stresses and anxieties.
I feel I owe it to the real snooker fans to continue. I don’t want to bail out early when I still feel I have something to offer to the public who enjoy the game.
What has become apparent, is that my snooker and my life in general is a thousand times better with all the variety I have.
When we do our punditry work for Eurosport, we have the best time. We have become like a family now. We all meet up at 8am in the morning and go for a 5-8k run which sets the day up nicely. I then get to watch snooker up close which is so much better than watching it on TV.
So the conclusion is that my game might not be as sharp as it could be, but I can still blag it and win a few matches to stay in the top 16.
Of course, losing still hurts, but not nearly as much as it used to. And even if I did drop out of the top 16, who cares? I can still play, and hit a few balls for fun.
Snooker is so much better when it’s played with a fun attitude. Some snooker is better than no snooker, that’s how I see it.
To be honest, does it really matter if it says five world titles on my gravestone as opposed to seven? History will judge you how it judges you.
I think life should be about having fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve even had fun when things have been bad for me. But when you hit your 40s, you realise it’s not everything in life.
Anyway, enough talking for now. I’m looking forward to Sheffield, the World Championship and all the mixed bag of pleasure it brings.
Speak to you again soon snooker fans.
Ronnie O’Sullivan: Barry Hearn says interviews break no rules
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn says Ronnie O’Sullivan is doing nothing wrong with his unorthodox interviews.
O’Sullivan has talked in a robotic voice and sung an Oasis song in protest at being the subject of disciplinary hearings for several previous comments.
Hearn described the five-time world champion’s antics as “hilarious” but added: “I’m not sure he’s doing himself any favours.
“There’s a players’ contract and Ronnie O’Sullivan’s breaking no rules at all.”
O’Sullivan, 41, publicly criticised a referee and a photographer at the Masters in January, when he won a record seventh title, but his explanation was accepted and no action was taken.
“Ronnie never upsets me with what he says,” Hearn said. “Sometimes he goes too far, and when he goes too far, he’s reported to the disciplinary.
“There is no singling out of Ronnie O’Sullivan, for sure, because we need him in the game.
“Will I talk to him? I talk to him all the time. I am very happy to have a cup of tea, and I told him I think it’s hilarious.
“He’s operating under exactly the same rules as every other player. And he has every right to make any comment through the appropriate channels and they will be listened to. But the appropriate channels are not in the public media.”
Ronnie isn’t happy and in his latest Eurosport blog he tells Desmond Kane why
Ronnie O’Sullivan: Free speech is being stifled in snooker, I’m no longer willing to meet the cost
Ronnie O’Sullivan explains why he can no longer accept being fined arbitrary sums for speaking to the media. In his latest exclusive blog, the five-times world champion tells Desmond Kane why he was left with a sour taste in the mouth after winning a record seventh Masters in London.
I was thrilled to win the Masters for a seventh time before another fantastic crowd at Alexandra Palace.
It meant so much to me considering all the ups and downs at the event. As always, I enjoyed the support of the fans so much.
One thing that has slightly taken the shine off my win was receiving another disciplinary letter from the governing body World Snooker about two situations affecting me at the tournament. I’ll try to explain my thoughts here.
Perhaps he was having a bad day at the office, but I felt the referee, Terry Camilleri, was not up to scratch during my semi-final match with Marco Fu at one of our sport’s major events.
And neither was a photographer, who was snapping pictures while I was on the shot.
When asked a question about my match with Marco, all I was giving was my opinion based on 25 years of playing the game. The referee and the photographer affected me so I gave an honest answer to the assembled media about why I wasn’t content with the situation.
What hasn’t been reported was that after the Masters, I made an offer to spend some of my own personal time with Terry to discuss the issue, or in a room with all the referees, to try to help them understand why situations like this occur during matches, and how we can work together to get it right so everybody is happy.
‘IMPORTANCE OF ETIQUETTE IN SPORT’
When I was leading 5-4 against Marco, a pivotal moment of the match, I was going for a very important pot at the start of the 10th frame.
As I’m down on the shot, the guy started moving his camera in my eyeline to get the picture he wanted. I got up off the shot to ask him to keep still while he was in my vision.
I had to ask him at least three times to stop moving while he was in my eyeline. In the end, I had to change the pot I was going for because he wasn’t listening. Is that fair?
He obviously didn’t know the etiquette of not moving in a snooker player’s eyeline while the player is on the shot. It happens a lot in golf, and golf is constantly stressing the need for photographers to respect players before they hit the ball. It should be the same in snooker.
I understand the demands on me to help project a positive image for snooker, but in a sport where we are told all players must be treated equally, the top 16 players the same as the world number 128, is it really fair that cameras are clicking on shots while other players are left alone to play without this distraction?
It is almost feels like you pay the price for getting further in tournaments when there is inevitably more interest.
Out of pure frustration, I said to the cameraman who was among the reporters: “you’re a f****ing nightmare mate, you obviously don’t know not to move in the players eyeline while the player is on a shot”.
I’m not excusing the swearing, and I apologise for that. I’m not trying to upset anyone, all I’m asking for is a sense of decorum during the match. We are all there trying to do our best to entertain, and I know photographers have an important role to play, but we have all have to respect each other.
I didn’t swear on TV, only to 10 or 15 journalists who record comments after the game. Nobody has even heard what I said because it was edited out by the BBC.
I’m not saying I was right to swear, but the photographer could have cost me the match. It was such a tight contest that could have gone either way.
It is appalling to think I could have played a shot that was prompted by a photographer not respecting the etiquette.
It would be good to know what steps World Snooker take to make sure new photographers know the etiquette before letting them snap away when they are only six feet from the table.
‘FINED FOR ANSWERING QUESTIONS HONESTLY’
I don’t know what the outcome is going to be of these two situations, but I will no longer be talking in depth in press conferences or interviews because when I share my thoughts, I risk being fined.
This is not the first time this has happened. There have been several fines I’ve had to pay in the past, and they are not small fines.
For some reason, I appear to get fined more than all the fines the other players get for similar offences.
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions from that.
In fact, some other players don’t get reported for similar things they have done. Sadly, I feel some of it is a bit personal. Why? Because it has been going on for years.
From now on, when I don’t say much in my interviews regarding snooker, you know why. I will no longer put my head on the chopping block. I don’t need the PR good or bad.
I feel that I’m good to be used for headlines and promotion when it suits, and I think I do more than most in giving my time for interviews.
But then I’m quickly jumped upon the minute my opinions don’t suit them.
It feels like they want to give you it in one hand when you are winning prize money then take it away with the other with their arbitrary fines.
Are the fines worked out by a means testing system? If so, that is simply unfair.
I’m left with two options:
- a) find a new tour to play on because I still love playing, but not with this constant silliness going on, or
- b) not speak or give full answers when being questioned about snooker
This is a very sad place to be when you have to resort to that.
If I get fined for implementing the second option then I will no longer be prepared to perform all the contractual obligations we are asked to do for World Snooker.
‘TONE AND TIMING OF LETTERS’
It is not just about the fines.
It is the tone of the letters, and also the timing of them. I’ve received them one day before I’m due to play a big event. How is that helpful to a player preparing for a tournament?
I’m not prepared to continue accepting this when it is evident the governing body don’t seem to have set fines or proper explanations about why people are fined certain amounts.
n view of what’s happened, I think the best way for me to communicate my thoughts, and update everyone in my own words, is by issuing this blog every two weeks.
I think it’s important that I am completely transparent, and let people know exactly what is going on.
This is not a rant, but a measured and factual way that I can communicate with all the people out there without the meaning of my words being twisted and turned into something they are not.
If the president of the US communicates via social media, why can’t I?